"Did we begin
without knowing it
to find fault in every gift
Then that was when
the Blame began
What were once 2 forces joined
One Word Review: Exquisite
Night of Hunters was released in 2011 and after the first three intense listens, it was clear to me that this one was special. The music, the concept and the vocals melt into a unique and very emotional experience. The album has a truly coherent feel to it. The music, based on a selection of classical themes, is fully acoustic, meaning that piano is a main ingredient and in addition to that, a variety of classical instruments played by about a dozen different guest musicians, make the music bloom. This perfectly produced mix successfully conjures music, which is layered in a way that is seldom heard.
The concept takes its outset in a relationship that has crashed and burnt and follows the transformation that happens overnight, through an intimate look inside mind of the main character. This works, and the music effectively plays on a whole string of emotions throughout the album.
For those unfamiliar with Tori Amos, she is a seriously talented musician who sings, plays piano and writes her own music. This is her 12'th studio album. Tori Amos married sound engineer, Mark Hawley in 1998 and their daughter, born in 2000, sings on this album as well. I discovered Tori Amos back in 1996, when I first heard "Boys for Pele". Shortly after I listened to her debut, "Little Earthquakes", and from that moment on, I was falling head over heels in love with her unique, open-hearted and exquisitely emotional musical delivery. To me, music is all about feelings, and this approach with mostly just piano and vocals nailed it for me. Tori Amos has a way of laying it on the line without a neat wrapping and I like that direct and open approach her music and her often metaphorical lyrics have.
I'm not quite able to describe her vocals, except to say that she sings in a controlled yet frail voice and that touch of frailty gives her voice an empathy that I haven't found anywhere else. It really has to be heard and experienced to see if it hits you just as hard as it hit me.
Back to the album…
Night of Hunters is a grower and one that takes a long time to fully appreciate. I simply love the laid back feel and the challenging layers of music, which can be explored again and again. I have listened to the album constantly over the past half year and in that time, it has evolved into something that feels complete.
First of all, I love the way the album throws the listener off balance right away, by literally dumping you in the middle of a sea of raging emotions. Shattering Sea opens the album with a piano note, set to strike a sense of imbalance and it works. From here the song evolves with unsettling arrangements and a sense of chaos, only slowing down shortly for a moment of reflection.
Snowblind introduces Tori Amos’ daughter, Natashya Hawley, who sings the opening lines. Her unique voice fits this album perfectly. She appears on several songs throughout the album and the resulting duets and harmonies between her and Tori are always fascinating. A very clever touch.
A touch of melancholy seeps from Snowblind and continues to flow through the album. This feeling grows in intensity and peaks several times, first in Fearlessness, then in Star Whisperer, Your Ghost and finally in Carry.
Fearlessness is a song that was discovered only after the first couple of listens. Hearing this song click, I wondered why I didn’t hear it the first time. It is one of those rare songs that can bring me to another state of consciousness and leave me gasping for breath. It is ethereal in its portrait of emotions and I just love the lyrics.
Star Whisperer is an almost 10 minute epic, which is absolutely fantastic. Just listen to the beginning of the song where Tori sings with beautiful, withheld emotion, drawing out the melody and creating an intensely profound atmosphere. There are so many moments of brilliance during this song. Some of my favorites include the lines "Send for your Cloud Riders to come", "then I heard you scream from the other side of the mountain", "I saw a 'you' I didn't want to see" and "Why, why have you locked up your sky?", all of which are sung with so much passion that I just smile and go wow!
This is music can be felt in the air and that has always been a main attraction for me when it comes to Tori Amos’ music. The long instrumental middle section is never boring but keeps focus with various variations on the central theme. The music in this song is so intense that it almost defies words to describe it. The feeling is just…. It’s something magnificently melancholic and it hits me right in the stomach. When music is able to evoke a physical reaction it has truly hit the right note.
The album reaches a pinnacle with Your Ghost and this song quickly became a personal favorite. It’s the melody that does it. It’s grandiose and sweeping in its stature and brings a really special atmosphere to this passage of the album. In addition to that Tori sings the words beautifully, with just the right amount of emotion. She is singing so close to the microphone that it brings a very intimate atmosphere here. There is almost a combined wedding slash Christmas feeling to this song, but the melancholy is nowhere to be overlooked. Chilling and absolutely lovely. "I understand that you've been wounded". That line and its delivery had me right from the first listen.
The rest of the songs are favorites as well. Cactus Practice shines with a chorus, where the two voices rise in a harmonic duet. Job’s Coffin has an almost gothic ambience that works. Natashya has a long solo part in the first part of the song and her voice really shines here. I'm pretty amazed how she sounds at this age. Nautical Twilight brings a change, realization and a decision. This is conveyed with a sweet melody and well done vocals. Especially the line "She is boundless" is delivered with high pitch perfection. The Chase is an interesting exchange of lines between Tori and Natashya. The title track introduces a third voice, in the shape of Tori's niece Kelsey Dobyns. This duet between Tori and Kelsey works well and when finally the two voices rise in harmony the result is a standout moment.
Of all the songs on the album, Battle of Trees is the song I found toughest to really get into. At first, I felt that the song was formed too much by its lyrics. It was as if the lyrics guided Tori's voice and the resulting vocal melodies were not convincing. With time, the song evolved and what began as confusion became clear sight, as I realized that the complex music had always been the guiding string and the lyrics were simply, cleverly wrapped around this insidious entanglement of sound. At this point, the song became enjoyable and even more intriguing, but it took a lot of time and patience to reach this point.
Seven Sisters is an instrumental interlude before Carry ends the album with a sense of closure, drenched in melancholy. Anyone who have ever left a part of their life behind or knowingly come to the end of a part of their life that meant something, will know this feeling. This song embodies the feeling of having an empty pit in the stomach and it successfully hits the right note. It is a wonderful ending to an album that has enough drama to warrant something like this.
Night of Hunters is not easy listening and I am so happy that there is still challenging music like this being made in this day and age. It is one to discover and treasure.
In case you hadn't noticed, I love this album. Truly, madly, deeply.
"You will not ever be forgotten by me
In the precession of the mighty stars
your name is sung and tattooed now on my heart
here I will carry carry carry you
here I will carry carry carry you forever"
Posted Thursday, July 05, 2012
Updated: Monday, October 15, 2012 - Added music video for Carry
I enjoyed your review, though you don't give a title for the opening song that you describe, and you don't explain why Battle of Trees is "the toughest to really get into." The bit about Battle of Trees is like a review in which the writer simply says, "I like the album," as though their positive or negative opinion constitutes an informative review. Just some feedback I hope can help. Keep it up, you're doing great!
Posted by Steen - Monday, August 06, 2012
Thanks for your feedback! Your points are noted. I have edited the part with the unnamed opening song, which I later refer to. You're absolutely right that it didn't make sense. To expand on Battle of Trees requires more thought, but I tend to agree, that I got away with that one rather too easily.
Posted by Steen - Sunday, August 26, 2012
After pondering Battle of Trees for 20 days, I have expanded on my experience of the song. Thanks again for the feedback.